Spring Awakening

It has been a long time since I have written last, friends. Since that time we’ve braved a brutal winter that seemed as if it would never end. It was tiring and wearisome. Snow was admittedly enchanting on December 14th as it covered the city in its first blanket of the season and we gallivanted, ice skated, and filled ourselves with good winter cheer. But by the morning of April 15th when we awoke to find a sheet of ice on the sidewalks and neighborhood’s cars, winter had overstayed its welcome. The drudgery had gotten old. Fast.

Luckily, the weather bounced back from last week’s fluke freezing rain storm to the pleasant Spring temperatures and clear skies that I hope will endure.

The newness of Spring is a beautiful thing. We yearn for it, wait eagerly for it, chit chat about it at water coolers around the world once it finally arrives. The air feels new and clean, the sunlight better than any we remember before. The world renews itself and new life sprouts everywhere. Even people come alive again, venturing out of doors, facing the breeze instead of cowering from it, and collectively walking with a spring in their step.

This past weekend we celebrated Easter, and it could not have come at a more perfect time this year. Easter is, of course, full of symbols of new life, and the holiday’s position near the start of Spring enhances its significance of renewal. Yet to celebrate this holiday of newness we look to the past, as with most holidays, for a little help from tradition.

One of my family’s most treasured traditions is going together in the days before Easter to an old, family-run Polish market in Irvington, NJ to pick up our kielbasa for Easter Sunday and some kruschiki, a simple fried cookie dusted with powdered sugar, for a treat. The kielbasa is smoked in-house and is the real deal. The deli has barely changed in the decades we have been making our yearly pilgrimage, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a bastion of Polish-American culture in northern New Jersey and helps us maintain the special Easter traditions of our heritage.

Another beloved part of Easter is the cake my Grandma used to make each year. Simply called Yum Yum Cake, it is a confection that lives up to its name. I have made it for the last few Easters since Granny passed away and I am so proud that I can contribute to the holiday table what our wonderful lady had in the past. There is nothing like bringing smiles to the faces of my loved ones by making them treats, but it’s even more pleasing when it is a dessert so close to all of our hearts and one which brings back so many sweet memories.

So I’d like to share this recipe with you, with the hope that it will bring some of that same joy to your table. Enjoy this cake throughout the Spring while reminiscing about the warm people and loving moments that have graced your celebrations in the past.
Yum Yum Cake (Hawaiian Wedding Cake)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 12 oz. container of Cool Whip
2-3 bananas
1 can crushed pineapple
sweetened coconut flakes for sprinkling
  • Bake the cake in a 13×9″ pan according to the instructions on the box. Let cool completely.
  • Cream the cream cheese, pudding mix, and milk together with an electric mixer and set aside. 
  • Mix the Cool Whip with the cream cheese mixture.
  • Slice the bananas on top of the cooled cake. 
  • Put the cream cheese/Cool Whip icing on top of the banana slices, spreading evenly and smoothing out.
  • After draining the canned pineapple for any excess liquid, spoon evenly on top of the icing.
  • Sprinkle the top with sweetened coconut flakes. 

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